Saturday night, Syracuse gave #7 Duke’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski several gifts for his final game in town. There was a framed photo of him with Jim Boeheim, an annual award named after him, and a 97-72 victory over the Orange (15-14, 9-9 ACC). The Blue Devils (25-4, 15-3) scored the first 14 points of the night, led by over 20 points just over eight minutes into the game, and enjoyed a 30-point margin late in the first half.
SU simply could not get anything going until that point while Duke was virtually unstoppable early, making 18 of their first 24 shots, including a scorching 7-of-8 start from beyond the arc. The Orange struggled on the perimeter, finishing 5-of-19 from deep, and got a grand total of two points from their starting frontline.
The upside was that a combination of three reserves – Bourama Sidibe at center flanked by forwards John Bol Ajok and Benny Williams – was surprisingly effective on offense. Sidibe made every shot he took, netting 11 points on four field goals and three foul shots. Williams did even better, ending up with 14 points and a half dozen rebounds in 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, they could not do much to drag Syracuse out of a deep hole. The Blue Devils hung a 16-4 run to grab a 41-13 lead with eight minutes left in the opening half, then eventually pushed that margin to 30 points with just over five minutes until halftime.
SU closed the opening half strong, however, running off a 16-3 run, including the final 11 points of the session. Buddy Boeheim did a lot of heavy lifting, tallying ten of his 17 first half points in that time.
Joe Girard III scored five points in a 9-3 run shortly after the half that pulled Syracuse within 16. The Orange got that close at the midpoint of the half, as well, but Duke answered with six points to re-establish control.
Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard III led SU in scoring. Boeheim had 23 points while Girard finished with 18, including 14 after halftime. Benny Williams’ 14 points and Bourama Sidibe’s 11 supplied most of the rest of the Syracuse output.
Mark Williams led all players with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks. Paolo Banchero had 21 points and nine assists, including 18 points and six helpers in the opening half, while Wendell Moore Jr. hit six three-pointers as he finished with 20 markers. Jeremy Roach added ten points for the Blue Devils.
- The Orange missed their first seven shots, eventually starting the game 7-of-22 from the field. They shot nearly 60 percent from the floor after that, but were already in such a hole, it had zero effect.
- Benny Williams had a lay-up and a jumper in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the game, seemingly establishing a level of comfort for him that has not been seen in a long time. Williams seemed like he was able to just simply play after that, finishing 5-of-7 from the field and 4-of-5 at the line.
- Symir Torrence left the game with 9:17 left in the first half after getting a cut that required three stitches to fix. Jim Boeheim said after the game that he did not think Torrence would be able to come back soon.
- The lineup made solely of reserves in the frontcourt had one result of interest, really simplifying the offense. The show ran through Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard III with John Bol Ajak, Bourama Sidibe, and Benny Williams making offensive contributions by simply drawing less attention and making it pay off by making open shots.
- SU did a nice job of taking care of the ball, turning it over only seven times. Duke, however, made them pay just about every time, turning those mistakes into 15 points.
- The Orange tied a season-low with five three-pointers.
SU will finish this stretch of five games in ten days on Monday night when they travel to North Carolina. The Tar Heels (21-8, 13-5) come in to the game with nine victories in their last 11 contests, including three straight.
UNC’s 6’10” forward Armando Bacot is a contender for ACC Player of the Year, boasting per-game averages of 16.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. Caleb Love, Brady Manek, and R.J. Davis provide plenty of outside shooting to open up the inside for Bacot. The trio averages almost 43 points per game combined and have made 178 three-pointers at a 38.9 percent clip.
Monday night’s game between the Orange and Tar Heels will get underway at 7:00pm Eastern and be televised by ESPN.